Panama looks to Gold Cup success for WCQ boost

CHICAGO -- Head coach Julio Dely Valdes and his Panamanian side left Soldier Field with their heads held high, knowing that the team could not have played any better in the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Panama finished as runner-up to the United State for the second time in eight years, dropping a 1-0 decision.

"They must feel satisfied with what they did in the tournament," Dely Valdes said. "You realize when you do things right and when you don't. I know they left it all on the field. At halftime there was a lot of positive reinforcement and a great attitude. We were asked to do a lot in this game. As I said all along and I mentioned it [Saturday], it could come down to one play during the game."

And it did as second-half substitute Brek Shea tapped in a right-wing feed from Alejandro Bedoya in the 68th minute.

"Given how the game turned out, we cannot ask for more," Dely Valdes continued. "The hope was to win, but the way the circumstances in which the goal came -- I had a feeling it could have been an offside had Landon had not touched it. But you can't really ask for more. We studied the U.S. well as they did us. The goal was the difference. Again, I can't ask for more, and I mentioned it [Saturday], it was going to be a close game and that's what it was."

Added Dely Valdes: "I think we were all hopeful. We all wanted to win. We all -- coaching staff and players -- go away feeling that we gave it our all. As I mentioned it before, we leave this Gold Cup and I wanted to walk away feeling good. I do. I hope that's how the fans feel as well."

Dely Valdes said he was satisfied with the play of all of his players.

"In reality, I'm satisfied with all of the players," he noted. "I am happy with all of them. Of the 22, 21 played. They all did [well] when given the opportunity. "

Panama went through a rough patch during its three World Cup qualifiers in June, losing the CONCACAF hexagonal lead and falling to fifth place.  The Marea Roja posted a draw and two losses during that stretch and has failed to score in its last 286 minutes of qualifying play. With a 1-3-2 record (6 points), Dely Valdes hopes that the Gold Cup run will revive the campaign to reach Brazil 2014. 

“We needed this competition (the Gold Cup) to be able to recuperate,” Dely Valdes stressed. “So it was then here it should be able to reinforce us and help us arrive stronger to the September World Cup qualifiers. We'll analyze the games very well after this given that September will essentially guarantee who moves onto the World Cup."

The Panamanians have two qualifiers in September, hosting Jamaica on Sept. 6 and visiting Honduras four days later.

"September is where everything begins," Dely Valdes finished. "We have to think about has been done to now. We obviously can't forget what happened in June. We lost some faith, I would say. So I think the team has regained that hope and that faith. We hope the fans have as well. it just doesn't affect just the staff, but also the media and the country. It isn't going to be easy. We will be stronger and achieve our goals.”